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New Year, New Beginnings

Once the mayhem of Christmas day is over and the last of the turkey is gone, thoughts start to drift to the New Year. Conversations open up to the topics of setting goals and making resolutions. These typically range from losing weight, joining the gym, or reading a new book once a month.

Two out of three people give up on resolutions by the 31st of January every year. This is often down to the rigidity of the plans they make. It’s been proven that giving oneself more flexibility in terms of achieving a resolution leads to a greater sense of well-being over time and therefore, more likely to achieve the goals set.

Resolutions may be easier to accomplish if a person links them to their life goals and values. In other words, don’t just set a goal just to do something, actually believe in what you’re doing. Let’s look at an example.

You decide you want to lose 20 lbs because your clothes are feeling tight and you can’t afford to replace them.  You get off to a great start but by the 3rd week in January, you get invited out to dinner at the local Pizzeria. You overindulge, wake up the next day and find yourself admitting to complete defeat. Always another day to start again but it just doesn’t happen and you’re back on that treadmill of wishing and wanting all over again.

In terms of neurolinguistic programming, we refer to SMART goals. Those that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. If we relook at the above example it would now look something like this. On the 2nd of January 2023, I will start my weight loss goal. I aim to lose 4 lbs a month and will measure this by weighing myself on the last day of each month. This will be achieved by following the NHS Eatwell program and going for a 20-minute walk, five times per week. It is important for me to achieve this goal to improve my appearance and my overall mental health.

Thinking about your determining factors, and your drivers and focusing on them will bring your goals closer to you. Really think about your dominant modalities. For example, if you are very visual, you can literally SEE yourself achieving your goals, HEARING the praise you may receive, or FEELING the fabric of the new clothes you will be buying.

Whatever your goal is, do remember to factor in your mental health and well-being. You can do this by:

Opening up about your feelings

One of the first ways to improve your mental health for the new year is to open up more to the people in your life. People genuinely care. Opening up to people about your feelings, worries or hopes is a great way to check in on your mental health. It could really help you organise your thoughts or deal with troubled times.  Expressing what is on your mind to someone is like lifting a heavy weight off your shoulders.

Relax and identify your stress triggers

Using any form of a relaxation technique is a healthy habit that can improve your mental health and overall well-being. It is so important to make time to relax if you are going to work towards a balanced life. There are various forms of relaxation techniques you can do, including:

  • Deep breathing exercises – particularly in the moment when you feel anxious
  • Guided imagery through the use of an MP3 & headphones
  • Progressively relaxing your body from head to toes – tightening and releasing each muscle group as you work your way down
  • Simply sitting outside with nature and focusing on the sounds of the birds

All of these techniques are good for your mind and body because they have a direct impact on your physiology. They slow down your breathing, lower your blood pressure, and reduce muscle tension and stress. Making time to relax is becoming more important than ever in this busy digital world.

Live a more positive life

With the cost of living crisis and politics in general in the UK, it is no surprise that people are feeling more negative than usual. Here lies a choice. One in which you can absorb all of that negativity on a daily basis or choose to make 2023 a wonderfully abundant year, full of hopes and dreams. This doesn’t mean for one moment that you should ignore any other feelings you may experience such as sadness or anger, but that you should strive towards a healthy balance in your life.

Look at the activity in your life

Physical activity is wonderful for your mental health. Why you might ask? Here are just some of the reasons;

  • It will help your body to release feel-good hormones called endorphins
  • Regular exercise can help you sleep better which allows you to manage your mood
  • It can improve your sense of control, coping ability, and self-esteem.
  • Distract you from negative thoughts and provide opportunities to try new experiences.
  • Offers an opportunity to socialise & raise your confidence levels
  • Increases your energy levels.

Accept Yourself for Who You Are

Change is taking place all the time and as we grow older, we learn to adapt and accept the challenges it can bring, from being a teenager to an adult, or even a woman experiencing menopause.  Whatever that change is, we need to check that our mental health and well-being is in balance, to help us cope.  This is definitely a time of reflection but also embracing who we are and what makes us unique gives us a sense of belonging. When we reach that point, it can really boost your self-esteem and mental well-being.

Whatever goals or aspirations you set for the year ahead, make them matter!

Sally Benson – Director UK Counselling Network CIC

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